Some of you may or may not have heard the flap about New Mexico governor Bill Richardson’s using the word "maricon" a few months ago on Don Imus’ show.
The clip is here:
Imus asks Governor Richardson if he agrees that "Bernard," that’s Imus’ sidekick, is a "maricon." Now Imus knows exactly what he’s doing. They’re both from the same part of the country and they think they’re having a cool little exchange. He knows that Richardson knows that maricon means "faggot" in the Spanish they both grew up around. Imus also knows that most listeners to his show have no idea what the phrase is. You notice neither of them defines the term for their listening public. Imus launches the idea and Richardson, you’ll notice he actually jumps at it. Actually, Richardson goes FURTHER. Imus just asks Richardson to answer yes or no. Richardson sort of enjoys saying it, calling Bernardo un maricon. There is NO hesitation in Richardson’s reply. I mean he’s not even thinking this is problematic. Imus and Richardson are playing on a keen perception that most listeners won’t know what the word is.
This would seem to be Richardson’s macaca moment. He, like Senator Allen, knew they were hurling an epithet. But frankly, in my opinion Richardson’s is probably worse. Because Allen was using a very obscure phrase while Richardson was using a term that anyone who grew up speaking Spanish recognizes it for what it is. I am pretty sure that people have died for using that term of disparagement. That people have had their masculinity challenged with that term or killed people for being "un maricon."
Richardson’s non-apology just exacerbates the situation. He claimed that when he was growing up the term "maricon" was a neutral term, not good or bad, it just meant "gay." This is such bullshit it staggers the senses.
Now I’ve been assured that Richardson has a great track record on LGBT rights. All I’ve heard in detail is that he added gay and lesbian and transgender to the Hate Crimes bill in New Mexico. All well and good. [Although may I add that if *that’s* your great accomplishment for LGBT rights, — the ability to have our murders by haters labeled for what they are — than the bar is set really, really, really low in this country].
There are some gay Latino bloggers writing about this and hopefully this will get the coverage it deserves. Because so far, it seems the humanity of gay people seems pretty low on the totem pole in this whole sad exchange. It hasn’t received much press at all.
Can I also express how personally wounding it is that the first Latino politician of some stature, a credible (if not financially viable) candidate for the presidency has to reveal himself to be so grossly out of touch to find this acceptable. I haven’t felt this distressed and disgusted since Alberto Gonzalez was trotted out as the "First Latino/Hispanic Attorney General." Double Sigh.